Licensed marriage and family therapist Jill Vermeire was on hand during the filming of Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew, bringing her clinical expertise to the world of reality TV. She’s agreed to lend us her perspective on the show’s shoot, as well as the rehabilitation of the cast. Below, Jill talks about the show’s season finale and the cast of patients’ progress since taping the show.
Drew announced that you were running the aftercare program. How has that been?
They were given the opportunity to do two months with me, doing lots of group and individual therapy, as well as getting psychiatric care from Dr. Reef Karim at the Control Center, which is his out-patient center for behavioral addictions. It went really well. That was only for two months after the show, and it’s been eight months since we shot it, so after that period that VH1 paid for, I continued to see Jennie. She’s so committed to her recovery, and because she’s making such a transition in her career and the financial repercussions are pretty extreme, I see her weekly for free, and so does Dr. Karim. I see Duncan. Kendra has agoraphobia, which means she has a hard time leaving the house, so I do home visits with her and Lukas. That’s also pro bono. I’ve also done phone and text check-ins with Kari Ann, James, Phil and Amber. Nicole and James were the only two that didn’t agree to participate in the aftercare – Kari Ann obviously wasn’t there – but Nicole recently reached out to me and I offered her support and resources. She’s feeling like she’s ready to do some work. James travels. He’s all over the world doing his surfing and skim boarding. We’ve chatted and texted here and there when he’s needed a pep talk. You know, three weeks is nothing. The three weeks they were there, I was there every single day, there was not a day off for the clinical team. It was 15 hours a day, seven days a week for three weeks. We did a lot of really good clinical work in that time, but there is no sober living for sex addiction, at least none in California that I’m aware of. VH1 considered setting up a sober living, but because it’s a less structured environment, there’d need to be separate male and female houses, which they just weren’t able to do. The clients said they wanted to keep working with me because we had bonded so closely. I figured that since the Control Center was opening, it would be great if we could bring them in, since I’m running the sex addiction program there. I told them I could refer them to someone else that might fit their needs or if they wanted to work with a male or whatever, because it’s not about me: it’s about what’s best for them. Phil and Amber both see Dr. Karim. They are all somehow still doing some form of treatment, eight months later.
Does anyone stand out as doing particularly well?
Jennie has made the biggest transformation. She has not gone back to the adult industry. The transition from being in adult entertainment to something else is really hard. The financial piece is hard to deal with. Jennie has eight, eight-and-a-half months of sobriety from sex, drugs and alcohol. She’s finding ways to support herself that don’t involve shaming or degrading herself. She’s really the one whose transformation has been the most extreme. Duncan is doing really well. I know he has his blog and puts out there whatever he’s thinking or feeling, but I think that’s the Duncan way. I really respect him. Kendra is making huge amounts of progress. She struggled a bit after the show, but she’s back on board. She’s sober. She and Lukas are working on getting healthier little by little. Phil…I think he still wants to work on his recovery. Because I’m not still working with him, I’m not sure where he is with that, but I’ve seen him. He seems like he’s doing really well. I know he’s still working on himself. Nicole…I don’t know where she’s at. When I saw her at Loveline a few weeks ago, she looked great and she said she was doing really well. I think she’s working on a book. We had talked about some of the recovery programs before and I gave her some resources and she’s checking it out. I know she’s contemplating some of that. As for Kari Ann, all I know is she texted me last week and said she shaved a Mohawk in her hair. And then she texted me pictures.
How’s she look?
She pulls it off. They were professional pictures. She’s really a beautiful girl and she photographs well. She texts me. We’re trying to make some time to at least touch base, so I can see where she’s at and offer her some help and support, which I’m always willing to do. I’ve been really vocal about that. We’ll see what happens. I don’t know where James is. He’s all over the world. He’s been in good spirits, I know that. He’s been in touch. I don’t remember the last time I saw Amber. It was maybe a month and a half ago. She told me she made a lot of progress. And, by the way, I like the word “progress,” because this process isn’t about being perfect or without flaws or 100 percent whatever. It’s about progress, not perfection, and progress is different for everybody, depending where they’re starting from. Amber’s making progress. Her behaviors are improving. Aside from Kari Ann, whom I haven’t talked to about anything but her hair really, everyone’s made progress since the show. That’s the good news. It was hard for me to decide to do a show like this. It’s reality TV and you know you have to make peace between the TV component and the therapy component. But the big picture is that I’ve received thousands of emails from people: “Thank you so much,” “You’ve helped me so much,” “Now I have a name for this,” “I’m ready to get help because of what I saw on the show.” I was prepared for the criticism and the negative reactions, because people make decisions based only what they see on TV. They’re only shown little snippets of things. But the overall picture makes me really happy. According to the emails I’ve received, we really have helped a lot of people. More specifically, we’ve helped these clients. They’re all, in my opinion, making progress, and that’s the most you can ever hope for.